There are plenty of iconic things to do when visiting New York City. Of course you’ll want to head to the top of the Empire State Building. Touring the Statue of Liberty is another. And, if you’re visiting in the fall or winter, you must take a spin on skates at one of the city’s outdoor rinks. They’re picture perfect, and, if you get lucky enough to time your session with a snowfall, you’ll feel like you’re having a snow globe moment.
Ice skating is one of my favorite things to do in winter. I’m not good. But I don’t fall and that makes me a better skater than skier. Besides giving me a reason to drink hot cocoa, ice skating is fun in winter because it’s a way to be active outside when the weather gets cold.
The outdoor skating rinks near my home in New York’s Hudson Valley are beautiful. But, the ones in New York City are epic. Some of these rinks are relatively new. For example, the Rink at Brookfield Place opened as part of the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center. Others have hosted generations of families, like the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink with its famous Christmas tree. Even if you’re not that into ice skating, the rinks are perfect backdrops for photographs and wonderful places to celebrate Christmas in NYC.
Here’s a roundup of the outdoor ice skating rinks in New York City, including reservation policies you’ll need to check in advance so you’re not shut out of a skating session.
The Rink at Winter Village
New York City’s only free admission ice skating rink is open seasonally in Bryant Park’s Winter Village. Opening day in 2021 is October 29 and the rink will remain open until March 6. Operating hours can be found on the rink’s website.
As a response to Covid, The Rink implemented an online reservation system that will continue. Dates open up on a rolling basis. Masks are encouraged and high touch surfaces and rental skates are sanitized. If you’re bringing your own skates, admission is free, thanks to sponsorship by Bank of America. Skate rentals start at $15; prices are higher during peak dates and times. It’s cheaper to rent mid-week. And Bank of America cardholders can save an additional 10%. Wondering about storage options? You can wear your shoes in a shoe bag provided free with your skate rental. Small (16″ x 18″) backpacks are permitted. Or, use the bag check service for a fee.
In addition to skating, you’ll find rinkside food and bevvies in The Lodge by Prime Video. And, during the holidays, the wonderful Winter Village market. The market, along with ones in Union Square and Columbus Circle, are dreamy Christmas shopping venues.
Rockefeller Plaza Skating
Although the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree won’t be lit until early December, the Rink opens for skating on November 6. It’s one of those bucket list things to do in New York, so definitely add it to your vacation itinerary.
It gets super busy at the Rock during the holidays. The rink is filled with families, couples and figure skaters showing off, so definitely purchase your tickets online in advance. Arrive about 15 minutes before your scheduled session; you’ll have 50 minutes of ice time – whether you actually want to skate or just snap Instagrammable selfies.
The Rink at Brookfield Place
You can’t beat the Hudson River views at The Rink at Brookfield Place in Lower Manhattan. The outdoor rink begins operations in November. In addition to public skating sessions, lessons are available from resident pros, former Olympic figure skaters Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov.
Skate rentals are available. So are skate aids. If you learned to skate by falling repeatedly or crashing into rink boards, you’ll want to see these in action.
Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park
Another rink with a view, the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park is a classic. It’s also very, very popular and does not accept reservations. So plan your skating adventure for early in the day or late at night.
Located near the Artists’ Gate entrance at 59th Street and 6th Avenue, the rink begins operations in October and continues into April, weather permitting. It’s a busy rink, with party facilities, an ice hockey program and learn to skate programs.
Pier 17 Winterland Rink
New York’s only rooftop rink with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and East River was located at Pier 17, the old South Street Seaport. It was open for two seasons in 2018 and 2019, suspending operations in 2020. Whether it returns in 2021 is still to be determined. Monitor the Pier 17 website for news.
Riverbank State Park
Want a view of the George Washington Bridge, the Hudson River and New Jersey’s dramatic Palisades cliffs? Head uptown to Riverbank State Park, the State’s massive recreation complex. Located off the Henry Hudson Parkway at 145th Street, Riverbank State Park has it all – tennis courts, an aquatics center, a carousel and Sofrito, a full service restaurant featuring Puerto Rican specialties.
From November to March the park’s outdoor summer roller skating rink is transformed for winter ice skating. Rentals are available. A schedule of public sessions is not available on the website; phone the rink in advance for dates and times: 212-694-3642
Brooklyn Prospect Park
Lakeside is the recreational activities center in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. There are two outdoor rinks open from November through April, weather permitting. Lakeside also offers a Skate School. If you’re old like me but still fantasize about winning an Olympic medal, you can check out the curling leagues at Lakeside – it’s probably you’re only shot to compete.